Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rural Architecture and Assimilation



After writing two posts ago about how architecture is taking vast leaps into different realms, I remembered something.
Reactions by 'rural folk' to 'city folk' moving to the country and settling into old farming communities can be, well, let's say, interesting. Personally, I think it is wonderful that people moving in that have money, can restore old farmhouses and bring them back to life.
I believe it is so much better than letting the buildings rot into the ground. How depressing. And in most cases, people who move to the country, move there because they do love the rural life, and are very good neighbors.
I speak from experience. Back in the Midwest, we had "city folk" move in next door to our farm.

We loved that they were able to bring the buildings back to life.  In fact, they were obsessed with restoring the house as it had originally been built, even to the point of carefully removing old layers of paint and wallpaper, seeing what was underneath to try to recreate each room. Now that seemed a bit extreme to us, but to each their own.

So every old farmer was happy to praise their work, until...the house painters came one day and painted the house...ORANGE.

I was already away in college at this time, but believe you me, that was a major topic of phone conversation between myself and my family...and the whole neighborhood.

They had been doing such a fantastic job restoring it to it's original architecture...why the heck did they paint it orange????

Even I was shocked.
The farmers who settled the region were very conservative stock of Czech ancestry.  They would NEVER do anything to draw attention to themselves.
They assimilated into the American culture.  In my generation, Czech was no longer spoken. 
What a shame...but that was how it was done then.  You assimilated,  fit in and you had white houses.
I will say, that our home town still celebrates Czech culture...but wouldn't it have been wonderful  to have grown up with 2 languages on my tongue, which is now almost the norm in society today.

But getting back to the ORANGE house.

Back home from College one weekend, mom veered off the regular route back to the farm to drive past the object of conversation.  Yup, orange. Looking at it at a slow motion drive by, something struck me about the color. The tonality of the color looked vaguely familiar, but I could not put my finger on it.
I said to mom," so has anyone figured out why they chose orange," whereas she said, "oh, they found some boards behind the house that had orange paint on it."
Flash! It came to me right then and there what the boards were.  Farmers just threw boards wherever in a pile for possible use in the future.  Farmers like my father who grew up in the Depression were pack rats  You did not throw anything away.

Now who was going to tell our neighbors they based the historical reconstruction of their beautiful farmhouse on pieces of an old, orange Allis Chalmers Manure spreader?

                                                                                                         copyright 2012 Stepka